4 Positives of Gary Bettman's Tenure as NHL Commish

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistFebruary 2, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 19:  NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman takes in the season opening game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on January 19, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Few sports figures have been disliked so intensely as NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

Fans and players have despised Bettman as a result of his role in the lockout. Players were locked out by the league for nearly four full months, and the 2012-13 season was under significant threat to be canceled in its entirety.

When the two sides finally came to an agreement in the wee hours of Jan. 6, it came at nearly the last possible moment. If the two sides had gone another week without an agreement, it seemed certain that Bettman would cancel the season.

After all, he had done just that before. During the 2004-05 labor dispute, Bettman and the NHL owners locked the players out for an entire season. He also presided over a lockout in 1994-95 that limited each team to playing 48 games, just like this year.

Bettman is the lockout commissioner. He is supposed to be the commissioner of the National Hockey League, but he is clearly the representative of the NHL owners.

In particular, he seems to represent the interests of the hard-line owners who pushed him to get maximum concessions from the NHL players in the last two lockouts.

Bettman is worthy of criticism, and the three NHL lockouts that he has presided over will be a big part of his legacy when he ultimately leaves his position.

But there are several positives to Bettman's tenure, and he has helped the NHL grow dramatically. Here are four major accomplishments.


1. Increased Revenue

Bettman has proved himself as a businessman. The NHL has increased its revenues dramatically during his 20-year tenure as the NHL's commissioner. He has been particularly effective in recent years. According to NHLNumbers.com, NHL revenues have increased from $2.26 billion in 2005-06 to $3.28 billion in 2011-12.


2. Network Television Contract

 The NHL was virtually ignored by network television until the last 10 years. It seemed as if the NHL had to go begging for whatever crumbs the NFL, Major League Baseball and the NBA left for it. If the NHL got itself a national television deal, it was for just a small percentage of the cash that other sports received.

That changed in 2011, when the NHL signed a 10-year deal with NBC and its fledgling sports network for $2 billion (source: SportsBusinessDaily.com). While that is still less than the other major sports, it brought the NHL into the big leagues of television revenue.


3. Additional Teams

The NHL has added six teams during Bettman's tenure without adding any teams to the playoffs. That has helped make the regular season much more important that it had been. The Stanley Cup playoffs may be the most exciting postseason in all of pro sports, and the level of play has improved while Bettman has been commissioner.


4. Player Salary

 While players did not receiver their salaries for the first three months of this season, the amounts on their paychecks have increased dramatically over the years. According to The Buffalo News, player salary has increased from $1.7 million in 2005-06 and $2.4 million to 2011-12.